The winner of Saturday's Democratic presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, depends largely on whose supporters you asked. Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders? Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, even? Or maybe Donald Trump, given all the times his name was mentioned. The consensus was that all three Democratic presidential contenders performed well -- which left Clinton still the clear front-runner.
In a list of winners, the Washington Post named Clinton as "the only one on stage Saturday night who looked like she could step into the presidency tomorrow," pointed out that Donald Trump was probably reveling in the attention he received and noted that Martha Raddatz, one of the two moderators, was "the star of the show" and "made this debate considerably better."
Quick thoughts - Clinton brought her 'A' game - Sanders did well, despite disadvantage of terror/nat sec focus at top - O'Malley? Angry
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) December 20, 2015
On Twitter, Sanders and Clinton drew even.
— Kerry Flynn (@kerrymflynn) December 20, 2015
As for the losers of the debate, some suggested ABC deserved that label. The Washington Post listed Martin O'Malley as its first loser for feeling scripted, forced and just plain desperate, Bernie Sanders for allowing his answers to "devolve into shouting and outrage" and the Democratic National Committee for scheduling the debate for the Saturday evening before Christmas.
— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) December 20, 2015
Prior to the debate, front-runner Clinton had 55.9 percent national support, according to an average compiled by RealClearPolitics. Sanders had 31.3 percent and O'Malley just 3 percent. Sanders has been polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire, key early-voting states, with 39 percent to Clinton's 48 percent in Iowa and beating out Clinton 48 percent to 43.8 percent in New Hampshire.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents showed that Clinton had 59 percent support nationwide, followed by Sanders at 28 percent and O'Malley at 5 percent.
There was plenty of pre-debate drama, after the Sanders campaign acknowledged that earlier in the week some of its staffers had improperly accessed Hillary Clinton’s proprietary voter files by taking advantage of a glitch in a DNC computer program. In response, the Democratic National Convention blocked Sanders from accessing all voter data, even his own, until the two sides reached an agreement early Saturday morning. Sanders' campaign accused the Democratic National Convention of favoring Clinton.
“By their action, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign,” Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver said. “I think if you look at the pattern of conduct ... it looks like in this case they’re trying to help the Clinton campaign.”
The debate opened with Sen. Sanders apologizing for the data intrusion; Clinton accepted his apology and they moved on. Strategies to battle ISIS -- including the role of tech companies and encryption -- differences of opinion about regime change and an exchange about whether the candidates would pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class followed. Clinton took the pledge; Sanders did not.
Clinton got the biggest laugh of the debate. Asked whether corporate America "should love" Hillary Clinton, she replied, "Everyone should!"
The confident front-runner closed by saying, "Thank you, good night, and may the Force be with you."
Yes, this really happened (from our Vine) https://t.co/6WpTNSmRzZ
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 20, 2015